I was contacted by one of the people doing PR for the World Baseball Classic, and they asked if I would like an opportunity to interview Atlanta Braves closer and 2011 Rookie of the Year Craig Kimbrel. Three seconds later I had typed a legible email response emphatically saying "YES." Of course I want to interview Craig, or any other Braves player ... (take note Atlanta Braves media relations department).
A quick programming note that all WBC games (not just Team USA) will be broadcast live on MLB Network. Click here for the schedule.
Without further ado, here is Part 1 of my interview with Kimbrel from last Thursday (and if you'll remember, the Braves made a pretty big move last Thursday).
Talking Chop: The Braves made a big move today. What is your opinion on the recently completed Justin Upton trade?
Craig Kimbrel: It's a trade that's definitely going to make our team better. It gets us one of the most powerful and best defensive outfields in baseball now. Anytime you put two brothers together on one team that can be a dangerous combination. I know that when I played with my brother when I was younger, all we did was push each other to get better. So if they were to do that, that would be a dangerous combination.
Talking Chop: Speaking of your brother [Matt Kimbrel] the Braves drafted him last year and signed him, what can you tell us about him?
Craig Kimbrel: Right now he's just preparing and getting ready for spring, working hard this offseason and getting ready to go. I hope he can get down to Florida and turn some heads and go to one of the Low-A, High-A, somewhere like that and start his road up to the big leagues.
He throws his changeup a lot, he throws sinkers, he's throws in the high-80s, low-90s. I would say he's a power pitcher, but his sinker is coming around, so that could be a really big pitch for him if he can get that going.
Talking Chop: What made you want to participate in the World Baseball Classic?
Craig Kimbrel: Just the chance to be able to represent my country on the baseball field. I've sat back and watched the last two World Baseball Classic's and saw that Team USA didn't do what we wanted them to do. Any time I can have a chance to help out Team USA and represent our country, I feel like it's an honor, and I'm more than honored to be even asked to do it, let alone play.
Talking Chop: Are you approaching the WBC like an exhibition or like an in-season game, or have you figured out how to approach it yet?
Craig Kimbrel: It's definitely not going to be an exhibition game for me. I'm going to go out there and compete. Of course I'm not going to go out there and overdo it and try to do more than I physically can, because in those situations you don't do that, even if it's the regular season, anytime. But I'm definitely going to be going out there to win. I'm not going out there looking at, "oh, if we win, we win; if we lose, we lose." My mindset is to go down there and win, and I think that's the entire team's mindset as well.
Talking Chop: How are you planning on transitioning to what needs to be mid-season form a month early?
Craig Kimbrel: I started throwing a little earlier, playing catch a little earlier, and just a lot of small things. As a reliever it's different than as a starter. As a reliever, halfway through Spring, I'm close to being ready to go for the start of the season. The only difference is that for the WBC there are going to be quite a few more fans in the stands. I just have to make sure I'm physically ready to go and everything else will take over from there once I get out on the field.
Talking Chop: Do you respond to more fans in the stands like that?
Craig Kimbrel: I feel like any player dow. Any player going out there, and you have that adrenaline when you go out there on the mound that you don't have when you're in Spring Trainnig. And having to go that early might just make things move along a little faster than I would if I get to March 1st at Spring Trianing. This year with the World Baseball Classic it might help me at the start of the year, because the last two years I've had some rough starts to start the season, so hopefully this can push me forward a little better. .
Talking Chop: Have you spoken to other Braves players who have participated in the WBC in the past? What advice have they given you?
Craig Kimbrel: Yeah. Last year when they started talking about it toward the end of the season Chipper talked about how much fun it was when he played. Just playing with the group of guys that were on the team, not just playing one game like an All-Star game, but to be a team for a week, or two weeks, or three weeks. He said that experience was awesome and something he'll always remember. When he was talking about it, it was definitely something that I wanted to experience, and I'm glad I have the chance to do it.
Talking Chop: Speaking of Chipper, as a ballplayer and a hunter, how much are you going to miss Chipper Jones this year?
Craig Kimbrel: He's definitely going to be missed around the clubhouse. He was the kind of guy who would keep you on your toes because he was the lead of the clubhouse, but he would also sit back and joke around with us as well. The Braves have circled around Chipper Jones for, seems like the last 15 or 20 years, and now it's time for other guys to step up and be the voice of the team and lead us to some good things, and I'm definitely looking forward for that to happen. He's definitely going to be missed, but I think we'll be able to move forward without him.
Part 2 of the interview will be posted on the site tomorrow, as well as another post with some of my comments and thoughts from the interview that should be somewhat enlightening.